An offshore tax shelter in the European Union on the example of “Malta pensions plan” featured by Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal recently described quirks in the U.S. Tax Treaty with Malta that became a popular topic in the legal advice sector.[1] In the said article, WSJ describes an offshore tax shelter (a tax regulation in Malta) which promises rich Americans they can avoid lots of capital-gains taxes by setting up pensions in Malta. This issue is not only American struggle with tax abuse. For instance, Poland has also signed an international tax treaty with Malta (Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Government of Malta for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income signed in La Valetta on 7 January 1994)[2] and in 2020 the Treaty was amended due to the necessity of closing loopholes in the international (bilateral) tax system[3]. Moreover as a restoration of the Polish industry after COVID-19 pandemic, the Polish Government and the Ministry of Finance prepared the new Tax Act which shall prevent the change of the entity’s tax residence to the offshore tax shelter [4].

Before we move to the tax abuse based on the U.S. bilateral tax treaty with Malta it is advisable to start with Treaty’s provisions treatment.


The Treaty was done in 8 August 2008 and came into force in late 2010. As Jeffrey L. Rubinger wrote The Treaty contains very favorable provisions that can result in significant tax benefits to U.S. members of a Maltese pension. In order for such U.S. members to take advantage of these benefits, the pension must qualify as a resident of Malta under the Treaty and also satisfy the limitation on benefits (LOB) article of the Treaty. [5] In his article Rubinger enumerates the Treaty’s provisions that could become a victim of the interpretation tax abuse.